Frigid air blasts Northeast

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

JAY, Vt. -- The Northeast has been seized by extreme cold for more than a week now, with wind-chill readings so low that even hardy Vermonters are thinking twice about going outside.

"It will take a special attitude to be out there today," said Bill Stenger, general manager of the Jay Peak ski area, where the afternoon temperature was 14 below zero.

Arctic air has been blowing through the Northeast for the past week, creating wind chills as low as minus 60. The last time the mercury in New York City rose above freezing was Jan. 13 -- eight icy days in a row as of Tuesday -- and the deep freeze is expected to continue through the weekend.

Other parts of the country are shivering too. Temperatures never got above zero Tuesday in far northern Minnesota and North Dakota and stayed in the single digits across wide areas of the northern Plains and Great Lakes.

But it is the duration of the cold spell that is getting to people in the Northeast, where the last couple of winters were mild.

"It's remarkable, the longevity of it," said Tim Morrin, a National Weather Service meteorologist. "It just doesn't seem like we're getting a break."

Harold Clark spent Tuesday morning on a New York City street corner handing out advertising fliers.

"I got on about six layers of clothes -- thermal underwear, two sets of sweaters and a coat," said Clark, 70, as he stomped his feet and rubbed his hands.

The Mercy Shelter for the Homeless in Hartford, Conn., instituted a "no-freeze, no-turnaway" policy several weeks ago and has been filled beyond capacity, said executive director Sister Patricia McKeon.

"We have been letting people sit in the lounge, and sit in the dining room, in order to keep them inside. It's the best we can do," McKeon said.

"It's a lovely winter. I keep telling myself that," said Lori Langone, a New Yorker who recently moved back to Albany, N.Y., from Florida. "That's sarcasm."

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